Contextualist Theories of the Indicative Conditional and Stalnaker’s Thesis

Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):177-183 (2014)

Abstract

Lewis argued that ‘there is no way to interpret a conditional connective so that, with sufficient generality, the probabilities of conditionals will equal the appropriate conditional probabilities’. However, as Lewis and others have subsequently recognized, Lewis' triviality results go through only on the assumption that ‘if’ is not context-sensitive. This leaves a question that has not been adequately addressed: what are the prospects of a context-sensitive theory of ‘if’ that complies with Stalnaker's thesis? I offer one interesting constraint on any such theory. I argue that no context-sensitive theory satisfies Stalnaker's thesis if it satisfies three plausible assumptions: first, that the truth of an indicative is determined by the world of evaluation and by the set of worlds in the relevant epistemic context in which the antecedent is true; second, that one can learn an indicative conditional without learning that the antecedent and consequent are both true; third, that belief revision is conservative in the sense that it does not reduce the probabilities to zero unnecessarily. The result gives us a clearer picture of the real costs of a truth-conditional context-sensitive Stalnaker's thesis-compliant semantics

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Theodore Korzukhin
Ithaca College

References found in this work

Indicative Conditionals.Robert Stalnaker - 1975 - Philosophia 5 (3):269-286.
Conditionals.Angelika Kratzer - 1986 - Chicago Linguistics Society 22 (2):1–15.
A Defence of the Ramsey Test.Richard Bradley - 2007 - Mind 116 (461):1-21.

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